Arrest made in thefts from commuters

CONYERS - A good memory and keen eyesight made the difference this week when a local police officer nabbed a suspect as he was allegedly preparing to steal his second catalytic converter.

An Oxford man reported on Sept. 3 that a catalytic converter was stolen from his Toyota pickup truck while it was parked in the Ride Share lot at the Church In The Now.

Mindful of the theft from the Church In The Now lot and several reports of other converters stolen from the Ride Share lot in Covington, Conyers Police Department Sgt. Clay Ivey approached a suspicious vehicle Monday morning sitting in the parking lot of the Ride Share lot on Iris Drive near Klondike Road.

"The vehicle was not parked correctly in the parking space. The vehicle was parked at an angle facing a red Toyota Tundra," Ivey said in the incident report. "I also recalled several other catalytic converters in the recent past involving Toyota Tundras."

The officer said the driver of the suspicious Ford F-150 attempted to leave the parking lot, but the officer stopped him before he could go.

"As I was walking past the rear of the truck, I observed a battery-operated saw in the bed of the truck," Ivey said. "I also observed the end pipe of a catalytic converter ... two scissor-type jacks, wooden cribbing blocks and an open tool box lying in the bed of the truck."

The suspect dropped a socket when he stepped out of his vehicle, the officer reported. Inside the truck, officers found a battery charger with a socket attached, a wrench, batteries for the saw and several metal cutting blades.

Charles Daniel Clinton, 38, of 2488 Country Club Drive was arrested and charged with theft by taking.

Police Chief David Cathcart said thefts of catalytic converters have been "widespread" throughout metro Atlanta. He said that car lots and bus barns are common targets for thieves.

"It's good the officer called into question the suspicious vehicle in the parking lot," the chief said.

Cathcart urged anyone who sees something suspicious to contact the police department. He said the arrest of three men at the end of August was the result of a witness who noticed the men take an air conditioning unit from a residence. The witness contacted the property owner and then the CPD with a detailed description of the suspect, Cathcart said. An officer later caught the three suspects in the act of attempting to steal another air conditioning unit.

"What I want to stress is it was the help from the witness who was able to provide specific information to the officer that resulted in the apprehension of suspects," the chief sad. "Again, if it doesn't look right, it probably isn't right."

The Conyers Police Department's non-emergency line is 770-483-6600 and tips can be given through 770-483-TIPS (8477). Cathcart said any time someone witnesses suspicious activity in progress, they should call 911.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.